Harsha Maddula mourned at funeral service

At New Hyde Park funeral home, family and friends grieve for Harsha Maddula, 18, of Garden City Park, the Northwestern pre-med student whose body was recovered from Lake Michigan last Thursday after he left an off-campus party in Evanston, Ill. Videojournalist: Amanda Voisard (Oct. 1, 2012)

Unspeakable grief was on the faces of mourners as they lined the sidewalk and watched Harsha Maddula's wooden coffin being carried out of a New Hyde Park funeral parlor and into a waiting hearse Monday.

"Harsha," his father, Prasad Maddula, shouted as tears flowed down his face.

He, his wife, Dhanalakshmi Maddula, and their twin sons cried as they stood behind the coffin as it was placed into the black vehicle. Moments later, the hearse drove off, transporting Harsha Maddula to Queens, where his body is to be cremated according to Hindu traditions.

Early Monday, hundreds of friends and family gathered inside Park Funeral Chapels to remember the Northwestern University sophomore who aspired to be a doctor. Among them was the college's chaplain, the Rev. Timothy Stevens.

"We want you to know that our hearts are broken," he told mourners.

Harsha Maddula, 18, of Garden City Park was last seen at 12:30 a.m. Sept. 22, leaving an off-campus party in Evanston, Ill. His body was found Thursday evening between two boats at Wilmette Harbor, less than 2 miles north of his dorm. The discovery ended a massive six-day search.

When police recovered Harsha Maddula's body, they found his cellphone, wallet and money in his pants pockets.

"Based on the circumstantial evidence, which included tracking by bloodhounds through the area and cellular phone data, we can say with a strong degree of confidence that he walked north on Sheridan Road, entered Gillson Park, and within a short period of time ended up in the harbor," Wilmette Police Chief Brian King said Monday. "There were no signs of a struggle or anything to suggest that a crime occurred."

The Cook County medical examiner's office said Harsha Maddula drowned, but did not say his death was an accident. Toxicology tests, including alcohol and drugs, won't be available for several weeks.

Harsha Maddula's family dismissed suicide as a possibility, saying he had returned to school a week early to help freshmen settle into campus life. On Friday they asked authorities to continue investigating his death. The Evanston, Ill. police, the lead investigator, did not return calls Monday.

Harsha Maddula's own words, printed in the program at the memorial service, gave a glimpse into his personality. "The mind of an engineer, the ethics of a scientist, the soul of a poet and the skill of an academic -- these are the attributes of a developed person. My goals, my obligations and my dreams are the manifestation of a sophisticated man."

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